The Mayor of Uptown
Illustration by John Diebel
The title for The Mayor of Uptown was conceived by friend and neighbor Shawn Mahoney. He is the care-taker and nephew of the owner of the building in which I lived, worked, and which the gallery and show space was located. He was born in the neighborhood, and had lived in this same building for over fifteen years. After knowing everyone for years he was nicknamed “The Mayor of Uptown.” The show, which was in his building seemed, destined to be named in honor of him.
When choosing artists for The Mayor of Uptown, I considered location and proximity of influence to Uptown Minneapolis. Artists did not have to be working or living in Uptown, yet still be active in the area, or potentially connected in some particular way. The “mayor,” was also invited to choose one artist. The artists’ work was vast and multiple disciplined. I very specifically wanted this show to cross mediums and allow interaction together, even seemingly dis-seperate. I wanted this combination to be present as a whole. The work ranged in medium from—nature, abstract and documentary photography, painting, furniture, sculpture, jewelry, collage, print making, light installations, and floral arrangements. I knew that I wanted to have musicians and a theatrical performance. Again, these seemingly dis-separate mediums mixed and presented as one whole body of working art. I pondered what the reaction would be. Would viewers accept the mix under one art space? Would the artists? I believed so.
The work of John F. Diebel included two multiple grouping of collage work. His obsession with figures, set in Berlin, is collaged with drawings and layers of cut paper, abstract constructed framing devices, and the oddities of dwelling units. His figures, mostly armless bird-like caricatures, seemingly stare at that which they cannot possibly accomplish or attain. Without arms, they sit at a full dinner table set with utensils for which they can’t use. In obscurity, they depict an absurdity of common actions and social misgivings. The caricatures of the Mayor of Uptown, depicted on the announcement cards sits on a simplistic wheeled cart. The mayor, with his honors and pageantry with formal dress top hat and cigar is depicted as helpless. Other collages depict these humans, as self deprived, sad observers and non-participants. Johns’ collage work, reminiscent of Kurt Schwitters, becomes keen observations of culture, needs, and wants with bits of ones surrounding and daily life at odds with that which is unobtainable.
Two paintings by John Urste, depict the wildness and vibrancy of animals in humanistic actions, like a drunken after hours party. Large-scale monkeys and dogs are depicted as craved and edgy participants on the edge of chaos.
Dan Keefe, included three abstract and open test projects on functional and obscure light fixtures. His 12-inch open cardboard box sat upon the floor. As seemingly a box of discarded light bulbs, only three of which lit up—in a box of duds. The lights were wired with a dimmer switch. The effect seemed a witty comment on genius of invention. The box was so convincing, upon installation, one of the artists asked if they wanted to throw it out for me. They also kept accidentally bumbling into it as an inconvenience. Once I turned it on they knew they had been duped.
George Mahoney, of Solv Studio, is a skilled and progressive furniture designer who exhibited his most recent prize design. The “Metropolis” chair, a simplistic high tech modernist double curve lounge chair with rigid strips covered in toothed black leather that shape to a body. The silhouette was stark. The unexpected comfort was sublime. As brother to the “Mayor,” his chair was in the second stage of prototyping. Encouraged to sit in the chair, it also proved to be a fiber testing ground. During the opening, one of the semi rigid straps snapped. Brother Georges’ response was, “I changed the fiber to flex-steel before it went into production.”
David Foley a Minneapolis icon musician and favored bartender, showed a grid of abstract digital photographic experiments. Capturing light flashes, and odd vignettes, David is always on the new.
The husband and wife art team, Michael & Abigail Mouw, showcased their working Cebechrome prints recently commissioned and installed at the Hiawatha Light Rail terminal at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport. Three photosensitive non-film prints, showcase Minnesota historical reference of place, and over-layed symbolic tools of early Minnesota pioneers. The graphic nature of the tools seemingly blends a sense of place and purpose. A black and white nature scene of stark birch trees was montaged with a silhouetted photographic shadow of an early native arrowhead. With a softened contrast of object vs. place the horizontal speed of the arrow sliced the vertical scratches of a birch grove. The installations new venue, outside the airport, were set upon stainless steel panels, with complex and strong super-magnets covered by Plexiglas. Sensitive appropriateness to materials, and subject matter were vibrant and stunningly beautiful.
Robert Roscoe, a preservation architect, is obsessed with the documentation of place. His tightly cropped abstract photographic work of de-constructed buildings, piles of discarded building material, broken windows, and crumbling facades focus ones thoughts on the limited duration of the idea of place. His beautifully found unnatural patterning and textures, upon close inspection, allow the viewer a history of the process of construction, and also the speed at which our society can alter our past through destruction and disregard. Bob’s passion for preservation of space is evident and beautifully educational.
Terence P. Brashear does not necessarily see his own wildlife bird photographs as stunning. His admiration for nature and love of wildlife is evident in the impossibly close inspection of the animals he captures, let alone the collection of rare Minnesota wildlife. Terry’s’ photographic patients are beautifully rendered, and leave the viewer with a sense of majestic awe and admiration of subjects that are seem by so few, let alone photographed with utmost care. This was Terry’s’ first art show.
The inclusion of Flaneur Productions was a no-brainer. THE SECRET MOVIE a site specific performance art and social critique by writer, director and actor Jim Bovino, is filled with Avant Garde vigor with themes of technology, a timeless past, and the uncertainties of the near future. Jim’s abstractions of the inner thoughts of his characters are obtuse and acutely biting. His performance is a commentary on social conscience and fragmentation, the idea that the television, its events within, defines a new hero image, an image of the potential viewer included.
To allow the idea that an art show can be all-inclusive, I commissioned John Veda. John’s design and compositions of floral arrangements is spectacular. I wanted a flower arrangement to be represented as art. With the same formalities and respect given to that of a painting. His sense of texture, form and line are like any represented medium in the formality of the art world.
Terrance Payne, a painter and the director of Rosalux Gallery, has a magical voice. His drawing of an animal’s energy and strength is like Chinese New Years, the year of the dragon. The bull. The boar. His sense of humor, and nature for story telling, create a vibrant portrait that is optimistically whimsical.
Initially accepted as “The Mayors” choice, Alissa Valdovinos was a welcome addition to the show. Her paintings of abstraction of figure and portraiture were convincing and sensitive. Masterly painted, the paintings were seemingly lightened and extended them towards the subject matter.
Nissa Hagstrom’s paintings and collage incorporated Audubon birding texts with a carefully observant painterly gouache sparrow and yellow-cheasted finch. The drawings seem keenly representative to the attention of a well-researched and graphically illustrated bird book. Part history, part observation, Darwinesque descriptions seem to personalize each.
As a jeweler, Signe Albertson under the name Glamoramapuss, objects are stunningly sweet, delicately sensitive and absolutely hilarious. Her process of altering pop vernacular, and childhood kitsch are little dreams of memories of the past. She takes common relics and Cracker-Jack prizes and makes them her own. From Monkeys-In-a-Barrel to common dice she is able to believably make them her own. Her acute sense of appropriation is apparent in her story land lockets. On one side a quaint children’s illustration, the other a passage from another story that harmonizes its’ image. Signe’s artifacts are a collection that is to be remembered and admired. For her demographic, it is accepted and cherished memories that we are all encouraged to engage.
Stacey Meyer is a painter that occupies space, not in the scope of scale or physical space, but emotional space. For “The Mayor of Uptown,” I choose washed abstract oils with (her) story. Many of her painting start as images of strong and majestic animals. Like artists before her, painting produced over painting leaves a strong visual energy that is unseen but felt. Deep metallic washes favor royalty and plush passion. Subtle figure and animal references, barely visible, encourage a back-story. Stacey’s painting are deep and complex but touch on common themes of power, soulfulness and solemnness. By looking deeply into her paintings, one can find that for which they search.
John Nelson is a collector and modifier. His light sculpture evokes a sense of the Carnival and road show. A glimpse of what carnies’ personal items may do while the performer is on stage. Complex accordion-like suitcases extend and breathe the light that emits from them. Large antique dimly and irregular watt bulbs flicker with brilliance. High-tension entanglements of raw electrical cord fill each with a collected history, like found age-old marques lost. Their stories of past performances are fictionalized towards myth and legend.
What happens when a classically trained artist that formerly paints in the realism style gets bored? They use their left (non dominant) hand. Clea Feline will soon have to utilize her feet. Her left hand drawings are full of eccentricity that pairs her subject matter perfectly, from the wild eyes of an obviously crazed dog, to the elderly ramblings of someone at a nursing home. Her portraits aptly represent the non-perfection of an interview. Clea’s portraits of her dog, a past Buick Skylark, an antique dealer, or young daughter have personality and a perceived history of mixed feelings of affection.
Kate Pabst, is capable of opening her eyes and formulating obtusely disorganized assemblage. Small and raw, these sculptures have passion and a perfectly odd combination of materials that fit so perfectly. Raw acrylic, tar paper, exposed and crooked nails adorn each piece as if she found it that way on the street. Her openness and clarity makes each a very precious totem. Kate’s new system of symbolic iconography is filled with a multi-dimensional language that communicates the idea of immediacy. Kate has combined like ideas of sculpture, collage, assemblage and totem polls presenting us with objects that we desire, yet still shy away from.
Curation of multiples requires observation to allow corollaries to happen on their own. I find that I cannot force these combinations to occur. By choosing like-minded artists whom I believe to be generous storytellers, a greater novellum is created. A group exhibition like The Mayor of Uptown is at first a seemingly set of odd pairings. The general observation becomes that of legend. Each artist, and the viewer, is allowed to create meaningful and personal connections, and the greater collection encourages a new vision of shared space, a space in a collective conscience. As a collector of images, I look to express and share this new voice. The ability to store, collect, and connect adds appreciation, understanding and the want + need of further questioning.
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